UN flag cannot guarantee safety of personnel, official says

Other News Materials 28 February 2008 21:31 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The United Nations flag can no longer protect its personnel from attacks while on duties around the world, the head of a newly formed six-member panel on UN safety and security said Thursday.

Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran UN diplomatic troubleshooter, said "some groups" now consider the UN an enemy because of its perceived double standards and lack of impartiality when dealing with crises around the world.

"The UN is not seen anymore as an independent and impartial body by some people, some are right and some are not," Brahimi told a news conference to launch the Independent Panel on Safety and Security of UN personnel and premises.

"The UN has been put on notice that its flag is not a guarantee for protection," Brahimi said.

Brahimi, a former foreign minister of Algeria and head of several UN peacekeeping operations, said he had no information about groups that attacked the UN. He authored a widely acclaimed study on UN peacekeeping operations and on several occasions privately criticized Israel for its policies dealing with the Palestinian people.

The panel was formed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon following the bomb attacks against the UN office in Algiers on December 11, which killed 17 UN personnel - the majority of them Algerians - and more than 50 people in the Algerian capital.

But the panel is not mandated to investigate the bombing in Algiers. Instead its task is to review safety and security for UN missions worldwide. The UN had conducted an internal investigation into the attack, but its findings have not been made public.

Brahimi said the panel has been asked to "look at these new and increasing risks and challenges to the safety and security of UN staff and premises around the world."

"The panel aims to take a wider view of the implications of these problems and to analyze the capacity of the UN system, with host countries, to successfully adapt to the new circumstances," he said.

The Algiers bombing and high UN fatalities was only second to the attack against the UN office in Baghdad in August, 2005, which killed a total of 22 UN staff, including the head of the mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil.

Brahimi said he hopes to complete the review and report back to Ban within two months.

The other panel members are: Elsayed Ibrahim Elsayed Mohamed Elhabral, a security official in Egypt; Anil Kumar Gupta, a retired officer of the Indian Police Service; Umit Pamir, a diplomat from Turkey; Thomas Boy Sibande, of the South African National Defense Force; and Margareta Wahlstrom, a former UN official on humanitarian affairs.